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THE NEED FOR A SECOND CHAMBER: BICAMERAL LEGISLATURE

Introduction

The Rajya Sabha came into being on April 3, 1952, and had undergone severe prenatal scrutiny in the Constituent Assembly.

History of Formation of Bicameral Structure in India

  • The central legislature that came into being under the Government of India Act, 1919 was bicameral with a Council of States and a Legislative Assembly.
  • The membership and voting norms for the Council of States were so restrictive that only wealthy land owners, merchants and those with legislative experience could enter it. Women could neither vote nor seek membership.
  • The Government of India Act, 1935 proposed an elaborate and improved version of the second chamber, but this never materialised.
  • The Constituent Assembly, which was formed in 1947, after adoption of the Constitution became the Provisional Parliament and made laws till 1952.

Bicameralism and federalism

  • Bicameralism is a principle that requires the consent of two differently constituted chambers of Parliament for making or changing laws.
  • This principle came into operation in 1787 with the adoption of the U.S. Constitution.
  • At present, 79 Parliaments of the world (41% of the total number) are bicameral.
  • The second chamber enables a second and reflective expression of representative opinion besides checking the propensity to yield to the impulse of sudden and violent passions.
  • French philosopher Montesquieu said “The legislative body being composed of two parts; they check one another by the mutual privilege of rejecting”.
  • Federalism and bicameralism are linked because the federal character of a nation comprising constituent units can be reflected in, and secured by, a bicameral legislature.

Constituent Assembly debates

  • A second chamber might only prove to be a “clog in the wheel of progress” of the nation.
  • In 1950, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the first Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, said that Parliament is not only a legislative body but also a deliberative one which enables the members to debate major issues of public importance.

Conclusion

  • The House elected directly by the people is susceptible to passions of the moment and electoral considerations.
  • Their imprint on legislation needs to be checked by the second chamber whose members are expected to be sober, wise and well-informed with domain knowledge.

-Source: The Hindu

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September 2022
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